Transforming spaces: the duties of art assistants

On a tear down day, the Music Center’s art gallery transforms into a vast constellation of
shards of blue painters tape.
Only by catching the room in natural light from the adjacent window can one glimpse the nail pocks of paintings — spackled-over stories of the past.

But spackling the holes that the tape marks is only one of the many jobs fulfilled by John Mishler and his art gallery assistants.

Mishler, sculpture professor and one of the directors of the Hershberger Art Gallery,
takes charge of a number of aspects about the gallery’s exhibits, from arranging for artists to display their work to adjusting the lighting grid to best highlight the works.

This is where the art assistants come in. Nathan Pauls and Heather Gabel, both juniors, and Joel Lara, a sophomore, all assist Mishler in the set up and tear down of the Hershberger exhibits.

This mostly includes unloading and helping to hang two dimensional art or positioning sculptures on the floor.

“[For last year’s senior show] one of the pieces was a metal sculpture with a metal base and the artist didn’t want it on the ground, they wanted it to hang upside down,” said Pauls. “So we had to wrap cables on the base
and then strap it to the ceiling
with thick metal chord and the whole shebang.”

Once the pieces are set up, the assistants often have the chance to meet the artists and chat with them about their work.

Typically when artists bring their exhibitions to the Hershberger Art Gallery, they
also have the opportunity to
kick off their art residence with
an artist talk and short reception.

“It’s a real advantage that…you learn more about what the artist is thinking, and what they think about their own work,” said Mishler. “I kind of see
it as a collaboration between the artist…and what we’ve done.”

Heather Gabel also
mentioned the collaborative relationship with visiting artists
as one of her favorite parts of the job. She really loves how the “gallery comes to life” in the exhibit set ups, going from a blank space to one full of color and stories that the artists have to share.

“It’s a great cycle to be a part of; resetting the gallery for the next installation,” she said.

In that way, being an art assistant allows students to get a closer, more interactive look at what it means to be an artist and have it shown to the public.

Rather than just learning about art within the confines of the classroom, these students get a small foray into the world
that they as artists wish to join.

“Several of my art assistants…have gotten jobs working for galleries or museums. Some have gone on to get their master’s in museum administration,” said Misher.

Overall, this year’s art assistants have just been enjoying the unique opportunities that come along with being an art assistant, especially one that just works within the Hershberger Art Gallery.

“I’d say the only thing consistent about it is the inconsistency. And I think that that’s a good analogy for art, because art doesn’t really follow the rules,” said Pauls.

For more information about being an art assistant, contact John Mishler, or enroll in his sculpture course, as he said that he often recruits from there.

Olivia Smucker, Arts Editor
Olivia Smucker, Arts Editor
Written by Olivia Smucker, Arts Editor

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